By Marty Gordon
Some elves dressed in red stood in front of the Fairlawn Walmart on Tuesday as part of the Salvation Army’s Kettle effort, but they were not your typical bell ringers. They were members of the Radford University baseball team.
Head Coach Karl Kuhn is in his first six months in Radford after being hired away this summer from the University of Virginia where he had served as pitching coach for the past 16 years. During that time, Kuhn and the Cavaliers greeted the public and rang the bells at the kettles during the holidays.
“It’s a tradition that I want these RU players to be a part of, and they have grasped it with a lot of enthusiasm, especially during a week of final exams,” Kuhn said.
The Salvation Army’s Kettle campaign collected $144.5 million this past year and provided food, shelter and social services to nearly 25 million Americans. Online donations during the same time period totaled another $140 million, but it’s the kettle bell-ringing effort the public sees and responds to most prominently.
Red kettles are outside of an estimated 6,400 Walmart and Sam’s Club locations around the U.S. this holiday season.
The program began in 1891 in San Francisco and has since grown into one of the most recognizable and important charitable campaigns in the U.S. The money collected provides toys to kids, coats for the homeless and food for the hungry.
Kuhn used the word “our” when he talked about his team’s effort. “This is our community. We want people in Radford to know we’re their baseball team. This is our community, too,” he said.
The baseball players learned a little bit more about teamwork as they worked together to greet customers who entered and exited the store.
“When I asked the players if they wanted to do this, they jumped at it,” Kuhn said. “I am very proud of them and our coaches.”
Alex Perkins, a sophomore pitcher from Christiansburg, was one of those players. “It was great to give back to the community I grew up in,” he said.
“The players need to know what sacrifice and service means,” Kuhn said.
The bell ringers will continue through the holiday season. More information on the Red Kettle effort is available at www.salvationarmyusa.org.